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Balancing art and commerce with photographer Rui Santos Costa

Rui Santos Costa

May 24, 2016

Rui Santos CostaRui Santos Costa is a New Jersey-based fine art photographer. He talks to us about his interest in 19th century photography technology, balancing art and client work and how Hightail saves him time and money.

I received my first camera when I was 10
During the 60s, my dad was a devoted hobbyist photographer in Portugal. He was recording scenes of the country’s conflicts while serving in the military, as well as doing general editorial photography. When he decided to move to the United States and start a new life, he gave up photography. I started taking pictures at a very young age and continued to pursue it until it became my full-time passion. I owe all this to my father who inspired me.

Photography is not just about the camera
People always ask me if they should get the latest and greatest DSLR. But for me, what’s more important is how you capture the image, the lighting and framing, basically creating truthful images to inspire feelings. I still love my Canon EOS 5D Mark II, which is almost eight years old and lately I’ve been getting into 19th century wet plate photography. By going going back to the roots of photography, I have to focus more on the scene and enhancing my skills to build a connection with the viewer. This connection is the most valuable part of photography.

Untitled Landscape by Rui Costa

Wet plate photography is a new path to creativity
I was looking for a new way to create inspiring images and establish a relationship with the viewer. Wet plate photography is very different from digital photography where you can take 50 shots and know you’ll probably get 10 good ones. With the wet plate, you don’t have that luxury and you don’t have digital post-processing tools to enhance your message. Instead you have to prepare, frame, model and create your vision before exposing a glass plate to light. It reminds me of the eras during the the Renaissance where artists revived the classical forms of the ancient Greeks and Romans.

Rome by Rui Costa

It’s hard to make a living out of fine art
Fine art photography is my specialty. I have an exhibition in a New Jersey gallery happening in November 2016. But exhibitions don’t pay as well as you might think. It’s really more about exposure and getting your name out there. To pay the bills I do portrait sessions, commercial and residential real estate and event photography, like weddings, baby showers and personal moments. Most of my clients come via referrals from people who have enjoyed the experience and quality of my work. Someone will see a portrait in a friend’s home or on Facebook and want to know who took it. The more your work is out there, the better.

Untouched, 2014 by Rui Costa

Client often don’t understand the post-processing part
Photography is a challenging and competitive career. I often see customers offering small budgets for an event as if they were just paying for the initial three-hour photo session. But what they don’t realize is the 2-3 days of behind-the-scenes work involved in post processing. Even for the client to choose which images they want to print use means I have to do proof prints and meet them at their location. Or if I’m sending images via email, I spend an enormous amount of time resizing the files. It’s very time consuming.

Hightail has been huge for me
At one time, I used FTP but that was painful. I looked at services like ShareFile or Dropbox but they didn’t do exactly what I wanted. With Hightail, I upload the files to a Space and share the link with my client. They go on there to view the photos, leave comments and collaborate with me. No more phone calls and no more additional visits to show them proof prints. When they need changes, I just upload new versions to the same place. It’s made that back-and-forth of collaboration a lot easier and faster.

Rui Costa photograph in Hightail Spaces

The ability to restrict downloads is useful
I usually retain the rights to my photographs. I can set a Space to “comment only” so they can view high res versions but not have access to the file itself without my permission. My real estate clients usually pay extra to own the rights and then it’s useful that they can simply download whichever images they need from the Space. It makes the job more efficient, which is important to me. I also like that the access code feature provides additional security as a lot of my customer value that privacy.

All my clients have been positive about Hightail
They love the whole process. They might like me but I don’t think they want to always see me at their location with proof prints. It’s much easier for them to review the images on their own time. Cutting down on all those trips and the cost of proof prints made a lot of sense for me. Hightail has helped me make a hugely significant financial saving. Sure I pay a small fee every month but the benefits make my post-processing time a lot more productive.

Rui Costa photograph in Hightail Spaces

To find out more about Rui visit and follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also view his latest project, Connected, a photo essay of social connections. 

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